Anything ranging from fully online to fully in-person classes is possible this fall, the University of Missouri System president said Thursday.

“I’m becoming less optimistic about the fall to open fully,” Mun Choi told the MU Faculty Council. “Maybe we can have some hybrid. It’s still important for all of our faculty members to prepare for the worst case, which is fully online.”

Choi, who is MU interim chancellor, has said more than once this month, including in a campus email Wednesday, that he expects to return to in-person operations this fall. System campuses are largely running remotely this semester and, so far, will continue that way through the summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Choi said there is the possibility of a hybrid model in which classes that rely more on face-to-face instruction, such as labs, may meet in person while others stay online.

Delaying the fall start date is being considered, Choi said.

“The question is, ‘Does it make sense to open the campus, even with the deaths declining, when we don’t have a vaccine?’” Choi said. “We’re bringing 30,000 students from really all over the world back into Columbia. This is very complicated.”

MU is working to increase virus testing capability and supplies for students, faculty and staff, Choi said. But the risk of infection remains.

“It’s not like our students listen to all the advice we provide to them about social distancing and so forth,” Choi said. “There are going to be frat parties. There are going to be gatherings that are going to be more than 10 people.”

MU is planning for the need to sequester COVID-19-positive students, he said.

“We expect we’re going to have a handful of them, maybe 20,” Choi said. “But as long as we have a way to sequester them, to quarantine them, then we’re going to move through the process. ... But we’re not going to have a zero-risk environment.”

If remote classes continue, the quality of online teaching must improve, he said. Webinars and other online training will be given for faculty to enrich their approach.

“The course can’t be just putting your slides on and just giving out email instructions,” Choi said.

Choi said he expects the pandemic to have lasting economic impact on MU.

“I don’t think this is going to be a temporary dip,” he said. “This is going to have a long-term effect on every industry.”

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Education reporter, spring 2020. Studying news reporting. Reach me at lge7kn@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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